Date: 
September 14, 2016

Political Education Campaign - HPV vaccine

The Irish Cancer Society has today launched a political education campaign to address the misinformation surrounding the national HPV vaccination programme.

The Irish Cancer Society is seeking meetings with all Oireachtas members to ensure they have the facts about the safety and importance of the HPV vaccine. In a letter to Ministers, TDs and Senators, the Society says it is “concerned that misinformation about the life-saving and cancer-preventing HPV vaccine is being circulated”.

The letter from Donal Buggy, Head of Services and Advocacy at the Irish Cancer Society, said the recent fall in the number of girls being immunised will “cost lives in the future, given the vaccine has the potential to almost wipe out cervical and other HPV-related cancers in Ireland”.

Speaking about the campaign, Mr Buggy said: “The Irish Cancer Society is launching an advocacy campaign to support politicians so that they can have the facts to hand when targeted by anti-vaccine campaigners and can offer an informed response to any queries from constituents.”

“The Society is so concerned that much of the information being circulated about the vaccine is incorrect, our Advocacy staff will be running a political-education campaign for the rest of the year. We cannot allow unsubstantiated claims to drown out the real facts on the safety and inappropriately influence parents’ decisions to have their children vaccinated.”

The combination of a HPV vaccination programme, along with an effective screening programme, has the potential to all but eliminate cervical cancer. The Irish Cancer Society wants to ensure all politicians are receiving fact-based information so that vision becomes a reality.

HPV is a common virus infecting men and women of all ages and causes a number of malignancies, including cervical cancer. This year in Ireland, conservative estimates indicate that over 90 women will die from cervical cancer, while 280 will be diagnosed with the disease. A further 6,500 women will need hospital treatment to deal with pre-malignant forms of this disease to prevent later development of cervical cancer. Hundreds more Irish men and women contract and die from various other cancers where HPV has been proven to be a major cause of their malignancy.

Research from countries that were early adopters of national HPV vaccination programmes has clearly shown a very dramatic fall in HPV infection in their community and this is already leading to major reductions in the numbers of precancerous conditions being diagnosed.

“The vaccine is safe and protects girls and women from developing fatal cancers associated with HPV,” continued Mr. Buggy. “The World Health Organisation Global Advisory Committee for Vaccine Safety (GACVS) has reviewed, and continues to monitor, the evidence on the safety of the Gardasil vaccine. It concluded in December 2015 that Gardasil continues to have an excellent safety profile. In November 2015 the European Medicines Agency (EMA) conducted a similar review. This comprehensive review found no evidence the vaccine was linked to chronic fatigue like conditions.”

HPV causes large numbers of cancers and premalignant conditions which can cause disease and death here in Ireland. International research has proven that the vaccine is safe and has shown that the vaccine prevents the worrying consequences of HPV infection. Public representatives have a key role to ensure that parents, making choices about the future health of their children, are fully informed on these clearly established facts to empower them to make informed decisions.